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ISBE asks schools to work with sports recommendations, prioritize health of 1.76 million students

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois State Board of Education officials are urging school districts in state to prioritize the health of the 1.76 million children in the state by complying with the Pritzker Administration and the Illinois Department of Public Health latest guidelines for winter sports.

“We recognize the value of sports in students’ lives and share your hope that students can return safely to play this school year. However, at this moment, we urge you to prioritize health and safety, and to returning the 1.76 million students currently learning remotely to the classroom.” ISBE wrote in a letter to schools across Illinois.

Pritzker announced new guidelines for winter sports this past Tuesday.

The Illinois High School Association, a non-profit entity which leans on the Illinois Department of Health for guidance, met Wednesday announcing it will defy guidance and move forward with the 2020 basketball season.  Over 800 high schools in Illinois are members of the organization.

Friday marked a record high in COVID-19 cases in Illinois with 6,943 cases announced, surpassing 400,000 cases in the state.  It came during a week where America set new records for a single day.  On Friday, the U.S. recorded its first 100,000 case day across the nation, announcing 100,233 new cases. It was the most single day cases in the pandemic.

The IHSA Board will allow girls and boys basketball practice to begin in mid-November, with competition set to begin November 30th in the organization. 

IHSA says it will follow Sport Medicine Advisory Committee’s guidance in a return to play plan.  The Sport Medicine Advisory Committee is a committee of 13 complied of four area doctors, five athletic trainers, two athletic directors, official, and a Principle.   

As part of the plan, masks will be worn by all involved during play.

“IHSA may have their views of it but school districts know what the rules,” Gov. Pritzker said Wednesday.  “It’s unfortunate, but they would probably be taking on legal liability if they moved beyond what the state has set as the mitigation standard,” Gov. Pritzker said during a press briefing on Wednesday.

The full letter sent out by ISBE to local school districts can be read in its entirely below:

The Illinois High School Association recently announced its intention to move forward with the regularly scheduled basketball season, in contradiction to public health guidance. As COVID-19 cases rise across the State, the importance of following public health guidance has only increased. 

We recognize the value of sports in students’ lives and share your hope that students can return safely to play this school year. However, at this moment, we urge you to prioritize health and safety, and to returning the 1.76 million students currently learning remotely to the classroom.

The parents and families of Illinois have trusted us as leaders not only with the education of their children but with their health and safety while in our care. Public health experts have determined that basketball poses a high risk of COVID-19 transmission and is not currently safe to play.

Defying the state’s public health guidance opens schools up to liability and other ramifications that may negatively impact school communities.

Our Illinois schools and communities are safer when we work together in support of public health standards. We are relying on superintendents and school leaders to make responsible choices to protect health and safety and to focus on bringing all of our students back to the classroom. 

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